The age of this liturgical vestment is not precisely known, but it dates at least from the eleventh century.
At that time and probably earlier, but certainly for a number of centuries after, lack of heat in the churches necessitated that the clergy wear warm garments as a protection from the cold dampness of those stone buildings.
Hence it was the custom to wear a robe of fur. But this necessitated an overgarment of white.
Its name is therefore derived from its function, surplice, corrupted through Old French from the Latin super, over, and pellicia, fur garment.